In association with the Grosvenor
Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is an astoundingly, heartbreakingly beautiful piece of work, with two veteran actors at the forefront and at the height of their powers: Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay’s performances as Kate and Geoff Mercer in the week leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary celebrations deservedly winning Best Actor and Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
The film is split into 7 parts and each begins, a la Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, with a wide shot of Rampling tramping, each time with a little more haste, from the left side of the screen to the other, walking their German Shepherd through the frosty countryside. These shots’ beautiful Autumn colour palettes are a real joy to behold, and compliment the way the Mercers’ relationship bubbles away underneath the seemingly idyllic surface.
But the true heart of this film is found in the subtleties. The plot revolves around the discovery of Geoff’s ex-girlfriend’s body, perfectly preserved in a Swiss glacier, over 50 years after a fall in the Alps. Geoff is more disturbed by this than Kate would like, and at one point she is on a river steamer boat as an older man sails by in the background with a younger woman lounging, motionless, on his boat with him. Even the shocking turning point of the plotline is delivered with no shift in tone, no dramatic music. Kate’s inner turmoil is obvious, especially in the face of Courtenay’s portrayal of the bumbling husband without a clue as to what’s going on in his wife’s head. The camera lingers on Rampling’s face just long enough to tell us all we need to know, and the cinematography in the kitchen scenes brings the audience right there, favouring long, long takes in which both actors slip in and out of shot, allowing the dialogue of their quiet crisis to breathe.
It’s truly heartwrenching to watch Kate’s perception of her husband change unrecognisably over the course of one week; 45 Years is as raw and profound an exploration of love and marriage as you’re likely to see this year.
[Ciaran McQueen – @_delareine]